Friday, 22 June 2018

New Boards incoming

I've been mad busy with work and website and demos and and and...

So aside from the funded long ago Kickstarter LibreH5  which still does not have a graphic OS yet

I've not been chasing many new boards.  :(

Which is a shame as I think we're in a bit of a new phase of board releases, with lots of new generation SBC's being released, H5's starting to take hold, H6's on the market (though poorly supported) and Rockchips mighty RK series of chips starting to grab a big share of the market and it seems also having some GPU support.

The lovely people at FriendlyArm are sending me 3 new boards. One of which I probably wouldn't buy normally but wanted to compare it with its precursor, the M1.  The M1 was one of my favorite dirt cheap boards, they cost $10-11 and were pretty much usable out of the box even had some graphic acceleration, though only ran at about 75% of the speed of a Raspberry in single core mode. for $11 though....bargain, 3 times the power of a RpiZero when used properly.

They are sending me the M1+, which is basically the same under powered board  but with extra features like wifi, eMMC and more memory, but its $38 so can't honestly see it being worth that price...unless you MUST have wifi and eMMC... but I am happy to try it out and check it all still works ok. I had noticed that later versions of Debian didn't work so well on the old M1. So we will see.

More exciting though they are also sending a K1+ which is an H5 version of their K2 android unit.  I haven't had a lot of luck getting a Linux OS running on it, but as an android machine its quite a lovely bit of kit.  But an H5 version has a Mali450 on it...hmmm and the wiki suggests it has OpenGLES on board ready as it can run GLMark2-es2  . That will be great to play with and in theory should comfortably outperform the Rpi. Perhaps I can use it as a benchmark for the other H5's in my drawer of shame.

It does seem that following last years release of Allwinners GPU binaries, there do seem to be more Allwinner systems comming to market with GPU enabled.

And very generous of them the T4, and RK3399 board, which is over my $100 limit so very excited to get hold of one and not have to spend pennies.

Yes for sure this is a new phase in SBC's there seems to be a lot of new, much more poweful chips coming on the market, as phones and tablets have upped the power outpuit, making their current chips less desirable and opening them up to the SBC market.

Soon as I can get all my work uptodate I will have to dig out the sleepers in the drawer of shame and see what can be done, especially the Allwinner and Rockchip based ones.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Libre Tritium H5 board

After quite a delay another kickstarter board has arrived, I got the H5 2G version.

There is a version of Armbian for it, so will check it out soon, but given the small numbers of production, and no apparent love for the H5's  I doubt we'll see much in the way of graphics drivers for a while.

Ahhh no, I got that wrong, the Armbian is for H3, the H5 has no OS at all yet....well if you like writing OS's then that so much, in the drawer of shame it goes for a few months.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Better get back to this. Raspberry Pi3B+

Sorry to disappoint my 1 and only reader with so few posts recently, I've been snowed under with work, both from university, freelance and maintaining the book, so its been quite a struggle to keep up.

And besides that, my focus has been on coding of late not on collecting more machine which may or may not work, but I did pick up a new Raspberry Pi 3B+


Well its great, its a Raspberry, does all that you expect from a raspberry, has a bit more oomph in its networking which is great for SSH coding, as I do, and a bit of a CPU boost, by 200Mhz, also give some of the game code a boost too. Other than that there's nothing new there that makes me excited, faster wifi is good, I think they tweaked BT as well, but I just don't use it so...

No current boost on GPU speed, but asking the Raspberry People about it, it seems it may be on the cards soon, which will be great. But for now, its just another incremental step in the development on the Raspberry with its current SBC.

It may indeed mark the end of that design path, since I think they are basically saying they've done all they can with it. And what they have done is amazing. If this is the last version of the Videocore IV equipped SBC, then its a fitting end.
Roll on the Raspberry 4, which I am sure will be a world beater, but not this year.

Which leads me to putting an image here just so I can post it on to my forum on the Book support site. If you are into coding your SBC's please take a look, join up and contribute. At the moment its mostly me posting hints and tips and giving some people a bit of help.
I will still maintain this blog  as and when I collect and report on new SBC's but I think its mainly going to be used now for small tutorials and screen shots

I'm about to talk about lighting, here's an example of the massive difference you can get from using lights vs not using lights.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

revisiting the Khadas Vim2 Pro oops no its a 2GB Basic..

This is an odd beast for sure, I had trouble with it simply because it uses a USB C cable for power, and even though it came with one my usb output from the monitor never seemed to give enough power and it would frequently die at the end of a boot.

Well finally I got a converter for micro to USB C, and also managed to finally work out how to update the on board memory to have a linux (ubuntu) system instead of the default, but actually rather nice Android

This is an 8 core beast (big/small) which should put it on a par with the might XU4, it even has a better GPU a Mali T820, but only MP3 , not quite up to the XU4's MP6 but even so its a next gen chip so it might manage it. Its an ES3.2 chip, which even if it can't quote provide the parallel grunt sending ES2.0 shaders to work, its ES3.2 shaders should make them cry.

After a bit of head scratching which turned out to be nothing more than very bad documents that didn't immediately make sense I was able to get it to reflash, and then update.

Time for the graphics fun to begin but of course there's no drivers on board...oh well...

Installed GLMark2-ES2 ok, after I'd allowed the onboard installer to do an update and reset. It does not identify the MaliT820 though so its basically emulating and slowly as you might expect, frame rates so far are nothing to write home about and of course it errors a lot at the death, eventually exiting with no score.

I'll see if I can get the usual mesa libs on board and try to get a test build sorted...should only take an hour

And bugger me, that was actually quite easy, once I'd set up the standard libs etc, and also installed and activated SSH server with
sudo apt-get install openssh-server
sudo service ssh start

I had no problems getting the generic mult config Maze hunt to build at run at all aside, from the known keyboard problems, the chmod fix however got me control and off it went.

Its running a very slow of course due to lack of hardware access to the GPU but its performing as well as any of the other units without graphics. So I'm genuinely impressed. That was the easiest I've had so far, and the 1st time I've been able to do a -j8 options without the target dying. Most impressive. It does get bloody hot though, and the fact its already encased in a perspect case means I can't add a heat sink or fan to it..but it does not seem to be too worried and is running all 8 course at a nice old rate.

Will it ever get GPU access? I dunno...we'll see.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Revisiting the Tinkerboard, it works...kinda

There's new imgs of the Tinkerboard available now, and I noted that OpenGLES2 and ES3 have been made available so I set about burning a new img

Sure enough there they were so I set up my test project and .....sooooo much hassle, lots of confusion issues with extension defines needed and installs of X11 and GDB but eventually I did get it up and running, and was a little surprised at how unremarkable it was in terms of speed. Well my demo isn't really optimized for speed so its very hard to be sure.

But sadly the keys don't work, even using the chmod "fix", I'll need to investigate furner runs.. its not comfortable using mostly generic code, so perhaps some specific graphics code is needed to get the best out of it, but hey ho.

It runs :D I'm happy, and that also means at some point I can have a tinker (see what I did there) with the OpenGLES3x options it provides

No clue about the keys though, I hope I don't have to write whole new chunks of keyboard coding.

To add further curiosity to the speed, I installed and run GLMark2-es2 on it and it came out with a woeful score of 48....48??? thats terrible...

Orange Pi One Plus the new H6 stop gap

Here we go, the 1st accessible H6 based board on the market, essentially a small upgrade to the original H3 version of the same board. But an H6 is in theory a lot more bang for buck, with most notably a Mali 720MP2 GPU, thats an OpenGLES3.1 and OpenCL1.1 capable GPU and markedly more powerful than most other chips on the market.

MP2 is always upsetting I would like to see at least MP4 but even so, it gives an extra level of performance that most Pi clones can't compete with.

Sadly though its from Orange Pi, who I respect for pushing out all kinds of nice tech, but who have not demonstrated any desire to supply decent OS's, making the boards mostly useless for games. They chuck the boards out, let users figure it out and by the time they do, they've moved on to a new board and people lose interest.
Its a shame..they could be market leaders if they would only look at the software they supply.

Allwinner did release specs on their GPU's last year though, so there's some hope that the 3rd party market will actually produce some decent drivers for this....some hope...only some.

For now, only an Android img exists, so for me its going to go back in the drawer for a few months, and I'll wait till there's a stable Linux with drivers to play with.
Its available from AliExpress for just under 20euro's (incl delivery)

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Bananna Pi M2 Zero

A very interesting board indeed, its a zero in its layout, but this time a quad core.. Sadly only a Mali 400Mp2 but it should out perform the Raspberry Zero.

As always though the software isn't here yet, Armbian does a fair attempt at getting it up and running but terrible graphic glitching makes it useless for any kind of graphic systems, and it GLMark2-es seemed to think it had OpenGLES3.0 GPU on board, the Mali 400's are strictly ES2.0 which probably explains why it wasn't able to complete the tests,though it did get quite far into them, though very slow

I'll do an update/upgrade cycle on it from time to time to see if there's any improvement, but for now this is a non starter for our gaming purposes.

Also interesting to note it gets bloody hot, I put a heat sink on it, wouldn't want to run without.

edit... ok I found a slightly older verison of the Armbian/ubuntu test build which installed at 720p and it is much more stable, after update and upgrade it is quite stable, no glitching and GLMark2-es2 worked better, showed as Mali400 and ran all the tests, but it reported a really crap score of 52, which is feeble compared to a Raspberry, even the Zero.

Not sure what to make of this, its quad cores make it a great unit, its crap graphics make it pretty useless, but functional barely. I guess as with all maker boards it depends what you want to do with it, if you need a small cpu system, its amazing.